Urban farming school experience… in Singapore!

The people behind social enterprise, Edible Garden City, has a new three-month urban farming pop-up space at Little India, called Growell (a play on the road name, Rowell). Edible Garden City champions the local “Grow Your Own Food” movement, and aims to shed more light on how edible farms can be become an integral part of the Singapore urban landscape.

As part of the many activities at Growell, the Edible Garden City folks came up with a interesting new concept – a 6 weekend (mornings only) urban farming school. Would it work? Neighbours Cuifen and Sharon both wanted to attend, for it has modules including soil, water, composting, systems design, what you can do with food after harvesting them. In other words, knowledge that every gardener should ideally have before starting your garden.

In the end, only neighbour Cuifen (who’s also our garden initiator) could attend all 6 weekends of school. In fact, she was so excited to be a ‘student’ again! A key motivator for setting aside 6 weeks to attend classes was the fact that she had initiated this garden project with hardly any gardening skills or knowledge to speak of. You can slowly pick up key principles to apply in your own home garden if you come regularly enough at our weekly community sessions. Still, it’s wasn’t fast enough for Cuifen, so off she went.

Here’s some questions posed to Cuifen after completion of ‘school':

Not all of us had time to attend the 6-week urban farming school. How was it? 

I think it was a really good 1st attempt for Edible Garden City.  They had done consultancy in garden design for schools & other organisations create gardens using sustainable gardening principles. Teaching was definitely a 1st for them – the first module on soil went way beyond the stated time of 2 hours. I feedback-ed that it would have been good to know how my classmates were, and to have more plant cutters to do our stem cuttings! They definitely integrated some of the feedback into subsequent modules, which made lessons really interesting.

 

Did you learn anything new?

Definitely. There were loads of science which I vaguely remember being taught in schools (e.g. water cycle, nitrogen cycle) – it was interesting to see how science is being applied at the garden. It gave rise to many new ideas on how we can create little fun / experiential lessons in the garden, and engage the children as well as the adults.

The classes gave me a good gauge of what I think I know & don’t know. Through Debbie’s initial permaculture design of Pavilion’s edible garden, we learnt so much interesting “new” concepts, which were also introduced and explained in the school. The concepts were also being applied in our systems design class, where we had to design and create our own systems (can be soil-based, hydroponic, aquaponic, self-watering, what have you). The system creation part was also really thrilling, because we got to use the power drills. It isn’t that we didn’t use power drills when we created this garden – we had neighbours who have experience in construction working on it. That meant that the rest of us didn’t have to learn how to use the drill, which on hindsight, meant that we lost the opportunity to pick up a new skill.

Toward the end of the course, we learnt how to preserve the food we harvest. We learnt a 10-min emergency kimchi recipe, and also how to make your own lip balm in less than half hour. Both are really awesome – now I know how to make kimchi when I really want a taste of it?

 

How would you like to bring this knowledge back to the community?

There’s 2 aspects of community here – Pavilion Park estate’s own residents, and the general public (e.g. living in Clementi area, but want to come over to join in our activities; or even the schools or other organisations!).

It would be ideal if Pavilion’s edible garden has a larger public outreach, as it’s been difficult to organise a community session with ~10 persons or more participating. On the other hand, it may be that we haven’t been publicising ourselves such that what we do touches the basic need of the community.

On knowledge – ideas that come forth include workshops (need a indoor space like Growell), fun maker sessions, simple food preparation sessions…

One thing I realise is that these ideas are not new, but in wanting to organise them, it always seemed like a lot of hard work. Yet, after this urban farming school, there’s this new burst of energy and motivation to say, “We can do it!”

And we are not alone. Pavilion’s edible garden is not the only garden to want to be more than just a garden. We want to be sustainable, grow organic food to eat and have better health, better neighbourhood, and better environment to live in. So do many others – some of whom I met at the farming school.

New raised beds using plastic tile planter boxes created by neighbour

The garden has 2 plastic tiled planters that were just sitting around for quite a while… Neighbour Mr. Wong had specially created the boxes for us as we wanted to create a nice circular arch “entrance” near the 3 Sisters’ bed. We didn’t do so immediately as for the longest time, we didn’t enough soil to go around.

Finally, as neighbour Mr. Teo shifted some former wicking beds to raised beds of about 1 brick high, there was some “excess” soil which we could use. The compost material which was deemed ready for use the week before also came in really handy.

What we did was this… align the planters so that they were “centralised” (relative to the gym equipment next to the garden). Dig down so that the planter boxes will be slightly underground and will not be easily moved. Dennis was really good at this, and had pretty much completed filling up his box when Lydia and Cuifen were still digging for the other planter!

Anyway, after we decided the digging was enough and the boxes fit in the trench nicely, we added a thick layer of the compost material from the compost heap, before adding a much thinner layer of soil, and then a layer of finer compost that we had received from Nature Company.

Dennis then guided us to drawing out shallow trenches along the length of the planter box. We put in some seeds that he had brought from home, and then patted down a thin layer of soil after. We then thoroughly watered the planter box, and hoped for the best.

Creating a new raised bed

Creating a new raised bed

Garden vandalism… reason for unexplainable damages identified

It’s been a while since we posted photos on the edible garden and our activities… and there is a reason for it.

Since December, the facilities at the park in which the garden is situated had been vandalised (daily / weekly). Items from the edible garden were regularly damaged or strewn around the park. The park managers advised us to make a police report which we didn’t do so. We had an inkling that these were done by children in our estate and we wanted to pin-point the reason for the damages.

The Neighbourhood Committee managed to find out this week who the culprit(s) is, and three of our neighbours have met with culprit(s) to emphasise on personal responsibility. We hope that these damages will not happen again, and thank the neighbours who helped identify the person(s) responsible for the recent damages.